First published in 2012, I’ve updated it for today. In an ideal world, I’ll be able to update it again next year, with a still more optimistic tone.
The Wall Street Journal asked some questions on Labor Day 2012, and supplied some answers. Here are some of those questions and answers, which remain as valid this Labor Day.
- Q: How are America’s workers doing? Not good. Over the past decade, over the ups and downs of the economy, taking inflation into account, the compensation of the typical worker — wages and benefits—basically haven’t risen at all. … The Labor Department recently said that 6.1 million workers in 2009-2011 have lost jobs that they’d had for at least three years. Of those, 45% hadn’t found work as of January 2012. … Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Friday that unemployment is still two percentage points higher than normal….
- Q: Things ARE getting better, though. The US economy is creating jobs, right? Back in December 2007 when the recession began, there were about two jobless workers for every job opening. When the economy touched bottom in mid-2009, there were more than six unemployed for every job. At last count, the BLS says there were 3.4 jobless for every opening.
- Q: How much of this elevated unemployment is because the unemployed just don’t have the skills that employers are looking for right now? …the bulk of the evidence is a lot of the unemployment really is the old-fashioned kind: the kind that would go away if the economy was growing at a stronger pace. Mr. Bernanke said as much at the  Jackson Hole conference….
Today, the jobs situation is drastically improved. The overall unemployment rate is at an historic low, and there are more job openings than there are folks to fill them. The black unemployment rate is at a record low. The Hispanic unemployment rate is at a near record low. The women unemployment rate is at a near record low. Wages, both real and nominal, are growing.
Happy Labor Day.